That afternoon there was a celebration at Miss Sophronia’s. Jake put a sign on the door to his place that he would open at seven and that anyone who desired could come to Miss Sophronia’s and join the celebration. There would be free beer and sandwiches until 6:00.
Before the celebration got too far along, Biggy took Jake aside to ask about going back to making deliveries for him, now that there would be no charges filed against him. Jake allowed that there were, indeed, no criminal charges against him but there was still the issue of his stalking Polly. Biggy promised that he was not going to go back near Polly Duplessis again but Jake still worried, although he didn’t tell Biggy this, that Biggy might transfer his affections to another woman. Arnold Labadie had indicated that the police were not going to actively follow Biggy but everyone on the force would certainly be aware of who he was and would be watching him for some time until they were satisfied he wasn’t going to repeat or resume his stalking activities..
Jake lay a hand on Biggy’s shoulder. “Biggy, I think maybe you should lay low for awhile. I know you’re not going to be stalking Polly or anyone else. I trust you’ve learned your lesson. But I’m not sure the cops know that. I’m afraid they’ll be keeping an eye on you, where you go and what you do. After a while, weeks or months, they will find bigger fish to fry but for now it’s probable that they will be looking out for you wherever you go. I can’t take a chance on you going back to work for me just yet.
Spend a lot of time here with Miss Sophronia. She needs help here more than she is willing to admit. Give it a chance. Maybe she’ll even teach you to tend bar. We’ll talk again in a few months about when it might be okay for you to start making deliveries again.”
Biggy was crestfallen but he couldn’t argue with Jake so he resigned himself to his fate. As the old saying goes, he had made his bed now he had to lie in it.
Things settled into a routine at Miss Sophronia’s. Biggy started a pot of coffee around nine. Then he sat on the front stoop with a cup and watched as students filed past on their way to Tulane, leaving the door ajar to air out the bar that smelled like stale beer.
He swept away the debris left on the floor from the night before, washed the tables and the bar with lots of hot, soapy water and finally mopped the well-worn, bare-wood floor. The last thing he did was to clean the toilets before closing and locking the front door and going back to his corner and taking a shower.
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He liked to get all of these chores out of the way before Jacques and Willa Mae got there between ten and ten-thirty. Before Miss Sophronia had worked out the arrangement with Biggy, Jacques had been the one to do all the cleaning every morning.
It didn’t bother Jacques, who was no spring chicken anymore, that he no longer had to do these chores every morning. When Biggy came from his shower, he would pass through the kitchen where Willa Mae was making breakfast. Jacques would be out in the barroom sitting at the end of the bar with the morning paper. Biggy would get himself another cup of coffee and join Jacques.
Biggy liked talking to Jacques while Jacques read the Picayune. He knew pretty much everything about what was going on around town. Cab drivers saw and heard a lot and had plenty of time to gossip with other cabbies while they waited on fares. Biggy learned a lot about the city from him.
As soon as breakfast was ready, Willa Mae sat a plate in front of each of the men — usually bacon or sausage, grits, eggs and that good, fresh po-boy bread. Then she called up the stairs to Miss Sophronia that breakfast was ready.
A few minutes later Sophronia would make her entrance. Her usual morning attire was a sheer pink peignoir embellished with soft feather trim that, never being closed, flowed out behind her revealing her masculine pajamas. It was quite evident that she wore no undergarments beneath the pajamas. Her long black hair was haphazardly pinned up on the top of her head. She would poke her head around the kitchen door into the barroom just far enough to bid Biggy and Jacques good morning before sitting down at a small table in the kitchen where she and Willa Mae ate breakfast together and went over the menu for the day before Miss Sophronia went back upstairs to her apartment.
After breakfast, Jacques would leave to begin his driving day. Willa Mae would go back to readying the kitchen for the evening rush that would start around four, and Biggy would finish clearing out the trash that had collected the night before as well as cleaning and restocking the bar.
This usually took until about the time Miss Sophronia came back down around one when she would be dressed in her usual long skirt and bodice that revealed a large expanse of cleavage into which Miss Sophronia might tuck all manner of things as her evening behind the bar proceeded. Her hair looked just the same as it had at breakfast.
This was the routine at Miss Sophronia’s six days a week. But Monday’s, the day the bar was closed, was the busiest day of the week. Willa Mae and Jacques didn’t come in on Monday’s. It was delivery day, and deliveries began quite early. Biggy was startled the first Monday he was there when he heard Miss Sophronia at seven o’clock, singing out at the top of her lungs, “Biggy Bigeaux. It’s time to get up. It’s Monday, you know.” over and over until she came breezing through the curtain that separated Biggy’s small bedroom space from the rest of the large storeroom. He was quite surprised to see her already dressed in her skirt and bodice. “Come on, Big Un. Get up. Lots’a work to do.”
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Biggy rubbed his eyes and propped his head up on an elbow. “Whu …” he muttered. “Isn’t it
Monday? Aren’t we closed today?”
“We are, indeed.” Miss Sophronia answered. “And that means we have to restock the place and get ready for the week. Now, get outta that bed and come to the kitchen.” She kicked the end of the bed for emphasis and disappeared back through the curtain.
When Biggy walked into the kitchen a few minutes later Miss Sophronia was busy making coffee. Over their cups of steaming fresh coffee they sat at the small kitchen table and went over the list of food items and other supplies that would be needed in the kitchen that week. While Miss Sophronia called the various wholesalers with her order she had Biggy go out and move his truck and her Cadillac out onto the street to make room for the delivery trucks to park out back. When he came back in she showed him how to reposition beer and liquor stock in the storeroom to make room for the new stock that would begin arriving any time. As he moved the cases of beer and liquor around she jotted down what would be needed for the week.
As they worked, Biggy realized that it was quite hard work and wondered what Miss Sophronia had done before she had him and she told him she had done it herself. She didn’t feel the need to tell him that it was Jacques who had done it. When she was coming up with the plan to save Biggy’s ass, it was definitely not her intention that he should skate away Scott free without a care in the world. And she certainly wasn’t going to let him be a free-loader. Besides, Jacques was over sixty and had been hinting at retiring and finding her someone else to help out on Monday’s. This was a win-win for everybody except Biggy didn’t exactly see it that way after working as hard as he was having to work.
But gradually, over a period of several weeks, Biggy got better and better at doing Monday’s work as well as the routine for the remainder of the week. Miss Sophronia’s trust and even appreciation of him also came gradually over the same period. She even began to think about how long it would be before she didn’t even have to come down to help Biggy on Monday’s.
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